London (CNSNews.com) - In an attempt to restart the Northern Ireland peace process, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Monday that he has asked the Irish Republican Army to make a concrete move towards decommissioning its weapons.
"Our collective responsibility at this time is to settle our differences," Adams told republican supporters at a meeting in Belfast. "I appeal to the leaders of unionism to join with us in doing that so that all sections of our people can go forward on the basis of equality."
Adams asked the IRA to make a "groundbreaking" disarmament move. He also called for Protestant unionist paramilitary troops to put down their weapons.
"The issue of weapons must be resolved," Adams said. "Not just IRA weapons, but British weapons as well."
With the exception of hardline dissident elements, both republicans and unionists have been observing a cease-fire since before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The provincial assembly created by that agreement is in trouble, however, after the resignation of several top unionist leaders last week.
They resigned in protest of the IRA's refusal to decommission its weapons stockpiles. If a solution to the impasse is not found by Thursday, the Northern Ireland Assembly will likely be suspended and the whole peace agreement will be reviewed.
Earlier on Monday, Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said the government would not be "grudging or ungenerous" to acts of decommissioning. Addressing an editors' conference in Belfast, Reid said that common ground created between republicans and unionists needs to be built upon.
Some unionists cautiously welcomed the speech by Adams. Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey - who was one of the ministers to resign last week - told reporters: "There are promising parts in this statement and it may well be heralding other steps."
Others were more skeptical. Ian Paisley Jr., spokesman for the smaller Democratic Unionist Party, told the BBC that the people of Northern Ireland "should not be taken for a ride."
"This is nothing of substance, nothing we can put a finger on that says the Provisional IRA is decommissioning," Paisley said. "The IRA will put on a show, but the reality is that there is no actual decommissioning."
Adams' statement Monday came after he admitted that one of three Irishmen arrested in Colombia in August is the Sinn Fein envoy to Cuba.
The party had previously denied any link with the suspected IRA members who were charged with entering the Colombia on false passports and with training guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in explosives.